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Exposure to North Dakota Road Material May Increase Risk of Lung Cancer

ScienceDaily (Dec. 28, 2010) New data shows that people exposed to the mineral erionite found in the gravel of road materials in North Dakota may be at significantly increased risk of developing mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer most often associated with asbestos exposure, according to research presented at the 2010 Chicago Multidisciplinary Symposium in Thoracic Oncology.

This symposium is sponsored by the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (ISLAC) and The University of Chicago.

Erionite is a mineral that occurs naturally and is often found in volcanic ash that has been altered by weathering and ground water. Erionite forms brittle, wool-like fibrous masses in the hollows of rock formations. Its color varies from white to clear, and it looks like transparent, glass-like fibers.

With similar properties to asbestos, erionite may pose health risks to those who breathe in the fibers. Erionite exposure has been associated with an unprecedented mesothelioma incidence in some Turkish villages in Cappadocia, and it has been widely believed that exposure to erionite was limited to that part of the world.

Erionite deposits are present in several parts of the U.S., including California, Oregon, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arizona and Nevada. In North Dakota in particular, researchers have found that more than 300 miles of roads were paved with erionite-contaminated gravel over the last 30 years.

In this study, funded through NCI PO-1 "Pathogenesis of Mesothelioma" and a AACR Landon Innovator Award for International Cancer Research, international researchers from the U.S., Italy and Turkey sought to examine the potential health risks for those exposed to erionite by comparing air samples, microchemistry, tissue samples and other data from North Dakota with those found in affected parts of Turkey.

"Based on the results of our study and considering the known latency period for lung disease, there is concern for increased risk of mesothelioma for exposed residents in North Dakota," Michele Carbone, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study and director of thoracic oncology at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center in Honolulu, said. "Precautionary measures should be undertaken to reduce exposure of erionite that is occurring in North Dakota and may be occurring in other areas of the U.S. where large deposits of erionite are present if disturbed. Our findings provide an opportunity to implement novel preventive and early detection programs in the U.S., similar to what has been done in Turkey."

The abstract was titled, "Erionite Exposure in North Dakota is Comparable to That Found in Turkish Villages Which Experience a High Incidence of Mesothelioma."


Urgent Ban on All Asbestos Needed, Experts Urge

ScienceDaily (Dec. 9, 2010) Scientists at the Collegium Ramazzini in Modena, Italy have repeated calls for a total ban on all asbestos across the globe. Writing in the International Journal of Environment and Health, the Collegium points out that just 52 nations have banned asbestos but a large number still use, import and export asbestos and asbestos-containing products.

Asbestos can refer to any of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals, serpentine asbestos, also known as chrysotile or white asbestos accounts for 95% of all asbestos use. The amphibole minerals: amosite (brown asbestos), crocidolite (blue asbestos), and tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite, are no longer used. Asbestos can withstand fire, heat and acid, is strong and insulates against heat and sound. But, it is a potent cancer-causing material account for 5-7% of lung cancers in men internationally and effecting the health of millions.

Despite the fact that there are now synthetic alternative that are much safer than asbestos, white asbestos is still mined and exported to the developing world, most notably by Canada, which has come under fire from the medical journal The Lancet for the alleged hypocrisy of having banned asbestos use in Canada but continuing to export the lethal material. The Collegium points out that exemption of white asbestos from any ban has no basis in medical science.

To protect the health of all people in the world -- industrial workers, construction workers, women and children, now and in future generations, a total ban, rigorously enforced, is urgently needed, the Collegium says.

At least 125 million people around the world are today exposed to asbestos through their work with about 20 to 40% of adult men reporting past occupations that may have exposed them to the risk of mesothelioma, asbestos, and lung cancer due to asbestos.


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